There will be a lot of people who don't know who John Kocinski is, for them: He was one of the wave of US Grand Prix 250 and 500 riders who revolutionised grand prix racing in the late-'80s and early-'90s, making it one of the most exciting times in road racing history. He was a protegé of Kenny Roberts, and raced for him on the Yamaha YZR500. He was 250 GP world champ, came 3rd twice in the 500 series (once on a Yam, once on the beautiful Cagiva V4 two-stroke). He then moved to the World Superbike championship, when it was at it very peak, and came third on Ducati in his first year (having never raced four-stroke 'road bikes') then won the following season, 1997, on the Honda RVF750 V4.
He was ridiculed, by the UK and European press, for his quirks, which are now much more understood as being symptoms related to OCD. Back then he was dismissed as being a 'neat freak'.
When he left the sport he disappeared from public view, with, I'm pretty sure, a very successful real estate business. He was never available for interviews, never went to reunions or courted industry sponsors. Then, years later, he reappeared at Californian short tracks, specifically Perris, on a red hot Knight Honda two-stroke framer (that we featured in SB12), setting the outright track record. Then he built a cutting edge Wood Rotax (below).
Kocinski speak so well, explaining what many lesser riders feel, or at least I do. How come I felt good yesterday, and now it's like I've never ridden a bike before? It's a really good interview, despite the interviewer, the highly regarded director/producer, Peter Starr, asking 'Are you still a racer?' I don't know if Starr ever raced himself, but I'm a racer, at the lower ranks of amateur, but I am a racer. I go out and race. I'm not a winner, but I am a racer. People who dismiss also-rans, at any level of racing, probably never tried it themselves. Perhaps they've heard too many supernaturally-talented pros say things like 'What's the point if I can't win?' All my fellow also-rans will realise there are lots of point. Camaraderie, escape, accomplishment, self-improvement, mental health, a focus to life beyond work and the front door...
As an aside, I once found myself with an opportunity to interview John Kocinski at the final National held at Pomona, in 2014. MCN in the UK wanted the interview and I made it clear this wasn't a story that would tread the old clichés of his quirks. I wrote the story that way, and they illustrated it making him look like a goof. I was very embarrassed and annoyed at the treatment. Kocinski had given up his time and was open and engaged with me, and someone in an office in Peterborough couldn't drop the tabloid schtick. Disappointing. GI
Thanks to John Bishop for sending us this video.